8 Things to Do with Kids in Charleston: The Top-Ranked U.S. City
Kid-friendly things to do in Charleston By Yahoo! Travel
Charleston, SC (Courtesy Charleston CVB)
For my daughter’s second-grade state report, she chose South Carolina. The selection was made based solely on South Carolina’s flag. It has a moon and a palm tree, and she thought it would be fun to draw — much easier than our home state of California’s! Regardless of the reason for the choice, she enjoyed learning about the state so much that she decided we should go there for one of our family vacations.
Since this was her trip, she got to set the itinerary. She chose Charleston, which we were on board with given its status as one of the South’s most charming destinations. In fact, it was just voted the best small city in the country by Condé Nast Traveler’s readers, who have given it that No. 1 status for five years running in their annual Readers’ Choice Awards. I booked four nights, and off we went.
Was Charleston kid-friendly? It was for our three kids — they love good food and really liked a lot of things that we did (list below). If your kids can appreciate history, architecture, food, and shopping, absolutely bring them to Charleston. If they prefer beaches and pools, it’s probably not for them yet.
I had everyone in the family rate each of our activities. Below are our top eight things to do in and around Charleston with kids:
Tom’s Toys Kapla Block Store
Kapla Blocks are thin French wooden blocks that you can stack to create virtually anything – very old-school. Tom’s Toys was the first Kapla store in the U.S. and it has a large central play area where you can play to your heart’s content…for free! We went there three times for at least an hour each, and the kids had a great time building. We ended up buying a 1,00-block set (free shipping!), but you’re under absolutely no obligation to purchase anything. Our kids couldn’t wait for our set to arrive.
I have a foodie wife and we have foodie kids. Our meals were extraordinary — it appears that it’s hard to go wrong dining in South Carolina. The restaurants that we would highly, highly recommend are Monza, Amen Street, High Cotton, Jim n' Nick’s BBQ, Burwell’s and Lowcountry Bistro. To say it was crazy good food is an understatement, and I love that our kids enjoyed the food as well (no kid menus for them)!
White Point Garden (Flickr: Kevin Tao)
The kids loved running around under the oak trees draped with Spanish moss, playing on the cannons and piles of cannon balls, chasing squirrels and picking up fallen azaleas. The walk from our hotel down Church Street to the park was utterly charming as well.
Magnolia Plantation house (Flickr: Madeleine Deaton)
Magnolia Plantation is the most-visited plantation near Charleston but wasn’t crowded when we went on a Wednesday morning. The petting zoo was the kids’ favorite thing, but we also all enjoyed walking around the gardens and going through the maze.
King Street Shopping
King Street (Courtesy Charleston CVB)
Sure there are some stores that you can find everywhere, but there are also antiques stores, clothing stores with Southern styles that we just don’t see in California (like seersucker and smocking), and unique places like Callie’s Hot Biscuits.
The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
We spent a good four hours at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, which I think is a record for us. The craft section is great, the mock grocery store is the best we’ve seen (sorry Louisiana Children’s Museum), and there are a lot of fun water and golf ball activities.
Charleston City Market (Flickr: allisonmseward12)
There’s a market that stretches several blocks down the middle of Market Street with souvenirs, crafts, kid’s things and, our favorite, puzzles. There’s a puzzle stand at which the kids spent more than an hour over several days, just playing with (and getting frustrated by) the various puzzles. Totally free — unless you buy something.
We signed up with Culinary Tours of Charleston, and it ranked a distant eighth. My five-year-old especially didn’t enjoy three hours of walking, dining, and learning about the history and food of Charleston, but the rest of us had fun. We stopped at a couple of places that weren’t open yet and got to have private tastings (Dixie Supply Bakery and A.W. Shucks Seafood), as well as candy stores and the Spice and Tea Exchange where anyone can walk in and try things just the same. Our guide was excellent, even if my New Orleans-born wife disagreed with him on some food preparations and pronunciations! If you have foodie kids, they’ll appreciate this. Seven is probably a good minimum age.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the French Quarter Inn. Even though it’s not an obviously kid-friendly hotel, the location is excellent and our kids loved a lot of the elements: the endless M&Ms and Jelly Bellys; the cheese, salami, and bread in the evenings; and the cookies and milk before bedtime. I appreciated that they let all five of us stay in one room (the Double Queen Suite was better than the King Suite). And best of all, there was a dimmer in the bathroom. It’s such a small thing, but most hotel bathrooms are either dark or extremely bright. I liked that if one of the kid got up in the middle of the night, he/she could turn on the light just a tiny bit. Really nice attention to detail overall. Highly recommended.
By Eric Stoen
More from MiniTime: